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In 1760 the Munster landlords began enclosing common lands.The rise in the value of beef was one of the reasons
they decided to expand their holdings. The landlords errected fences and embankments which effectively prevented
the people from accessing the land.
James Fant was an attorney in Kilmallock at this time and was a decendant of the Fant family
at Fantstown castle. He knew this act was illegal and assembled a group of local people to
organise a response. The result was the formation of the whiteboys. This group wore white shirts
over their clothes which helped disguise their identity and also helped them identify one another
at night.The name "whiteboys" is a direct reference to the white shirts worn by the group.
James Fant advised the group to level the walls and fences erected by the landlords that shut them
out of the common lands used by their ancestors for generations. They used non-violent tactics
and often dug up orchards and grazing land. In Ferrers history of Limerick, written in 1787,
the following is written under the date of 1762:
"(The Whiteboys)... in one night dug up 12 acres of rich fattening ground,belonging to Mr Maxwell,
of Kilfinnan, in the county of Limerick....A special commission was immediately issued to try them,when two of them
,Banyard and Carthy, were found guilty and executed at Gallows Green the 19th of June."
The whiteboys movement quickly spread to the neighbouring counties of Tipperary, Cork and Waterford.
As the numbers of young men joining the movement swelled so did the scope of its agenda. They focussed their
attentions to redressing the many wrongs under which the people laboured.The Whiteboys contin'd